Coach Gernot Rohr has said he will pick the country’s best players no matter where they were born after critics slammed him for a preference for players born overseas.
German coach Rohr has been in charge of three-time African champions Nigeria for the past four years during which time he has capped a growing list of players, who were born abroad.
Such players include Rangers midfielder Joe Aribo, Semi Ajayi of West Bromwich Albion, who were born in England; Tyronne Ebuehi of FC Twente, who was born in Holland, and Sparta Rotterdam goalkeeper Maduka Okoye, who was born in Germany.
Nigeria face Algeria and Tunisia in friendly matches tonight and next week Tuesday with Rohr again set to cap Kevin Akpoguma, who was born in Germany and has represented his adopted country at various age-group levels, as well as Cyriel Dessers, who has opted to play for the Super Eagles even though he was born in Belgium.
Rohr, who qualified Nigeria to the 2018 World Cup in Russia and has been rewarded with a new contract till June 2022, has maintained the quality of the player and not whether he was born in Nigeria or overseas will remain the first consideration in his team selection.
“We don’t take into account where a player was born before he is invited. We only look at the quality of the player,” maintained the coach.
“It doesn’t matter where they were born, it only matters how well they can play.
“I don’t know the player who is born in Europe and who is born in Nigeria.
“All the players are proud to be with the team. These players say I want to play for my fatherland.”
Rohr further gave the example of Hoffenheim defender Kevin Akpoguma, who is set to make his Nigeria debut against Algeria Friday night after he was cleared by FIFA to change international allegiance this week.
Akpoguma captained Germany to eliminate Nigeria at the 2015 U20 FIFA World Cup in New Zealand, but he has since opted to play for the west Africans after Rohr scouted him for the past two years.
“Akpoguma was born close to Mannheim in Germany, his father is from Benin City,” Rohr said.
“He said he will be proud to play for Nigeria, but he has already played for Germany.
“He told me it will be wonderful if Nigeria played against Germany at the World Cup.
“He is 100% Nigerian, but his heart is also a little bit where he was born.
“You cannot say that because he was born abroad that he is not a Nigerian.
“What is important is that these players want to play for us.”